Costa introduces legislation to repair major California canals

The Fresno lawmaker wants to deliver badly-needed dollars to restore capacity for key waterways.

California’s water delivery system could receive help from the federal government with a new bill introduced to Congress. 

Rep. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) introduced the Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to repair four major canals and aqueducts in the Golden State. 


The big picture: If Costa can receive the approval of his Congressional colleagues, over $650 million would be sent to California for repairs to the water delivery system. 

  • The San Joaquin River is also a focus of the bill, which would restore its salmon runs. 
  • Representatives John Garamendi (D–Walnut Grove) and Josh Harder (D–Turlock) co-sponsored the bill. 

By the numbers: The Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act would authorize a one-third federal cost share to the tune of $833.4 million for the following four projects: 

  • $180 million to restore the Friant-Kern Canal
  • $183.9 million to restore the Delta Mendota Canal
  • $289.5 million to restore the California Aqueduct
  • $180 million to restore salmon runs on the San Joaquin River

Go deeper: Costa views the bill as a way to help Central Valley farmers comply with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which was passed in 2014 and requires local groundwater sustainability agencies in critically overdrafted areas to create groundwater sustainability plans. 

  • In early March the California Department of Water Resources denied the groundwater sustainability plans of six Central Valley subbasins, which could lead to direct state intervention into their water management. 
  • Costa’s bill also stipulates that the money can only be used on restoration projects, precluding funds from going toward new water storage projects or raising existing reservoirs. 
  • Funding is also prohibited from being used to enlarge the capacity of any canal, except for a temporary increase to mitigate anticipated future subsidence. 

What they’re saying: Costa said in a statement that his bill is designed to help increase water storage in wet years to help withstand future droughts. 

  • “Restoring this infrastructure is critical to delivering water to our farms and communities across the San Joaquin Valley,” Costa said. 
  • “Wet years like this remind us once again how important adequate water storage and conveyance infrastructure is for California’s drought resilience,” said Jason Phillips, CEO of the Friant Water Authority. “The Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act makes critical funding available to restore the capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal and other key conveyance facilities and will improve  water storage and delivery to support farms and communities throughout the state and the food security for the nation.”
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